This Old Spice / Super Mario 64 mash up led me to figure out personal criteria for liking a piece of music

I spend a lot of time composing, and a lot of time playing, and practicing, and listening to music, and reading, and doing “career-focused” stuff like applying to festivals, booking, PR stuff, responding to email, you know. When it’s time for a break, I tend to go with hanging with friends, TV (new seasons of both Game of Thrones and Mad Men start Sunday, guess I’ll be taking more breaks), beer, exercise of some sort, more reading, video games, or, most importantly for our purposes today, screwing around on the internet. A few favorite websites for the aforementioned screwing around online are Geekologie, Happy Place, and Wired‘s various blogs. I mention all of this because last night, before bed, on Geekologie, I came across what may be the epitome of the internet (see video).

I have no idea why I find this so entertaining. I’ve watched it like five times. Makes me wonder about all this “high art” stuff we spend so much time on in music school, when this (very seriously) causes me to have such an immediate, visceral reaction. And this led me to ask myself, “what’s my process for determining whether or not I like/love/think-something-is-great for a piece of music/art/entertainment/etc?”

I think I’ve come up with a pretty simple answer. I’m using music here, but the process is similar for other art forms. Here we go:

1. First listen. Only one thing matters to me here: did I have a positive reaction? Did I enjoy it or not? If it’s a no, then we’re done, unless a lot of people I trust really seem to think it’s worthwhile, in which case, I’ll try a few more times. But each time, I still think of it as a first listen, looking for that spark of “is there something here that I enjoy?” “Enjoy” doesn’t necessarily mean “makes me happy,” mind you. It’s more like, “did it make me happy, sad, teach me something, excite me, affect me, etc.” If it gets a yes, we move on to the next step.

2. Mid-stage listens.These are the second through maybe twelfth listens, depending on the piece. I’m learning my way through it, remembering when things happen, anticipating them and being emotionally rewarded when they hit, digging into it analytically a bit, all that good stuff. It’s kind of a honeymoon phase. It’s a good thing if a piece makes it to here for me. If it does, and I’m still enjoying it after doing this for a while, it obtains…

3. Current favorite status. A song, or album, is all I want to hear. I’ll play it multiple times a day, and get all jazzed every time. This doesn’t happen often. When it does, I tell my friends they should listen to it too. Until, eventually, one of two things happens.

4.a. Something gradually replaces it. This is a good thing, because the song enters a sort of pantheon of favorites that I’m happy to hear whenever they pop back up, that I can always talk about and turn to, like seeing an old friend who has just been doing something else for a while, and you can pick up right where you left off.

or, 4.b. I get tired of it. In which case, I’ll basically drop it cold, because I don’t feel much when I listen to it anymore. These songs were summer romances – great while they lasted, but they’re not sticking around. When they pop up in the future in a friend’s car or when I put a playlist on shuffle or something, I’m happy to think about them, and sometimes even get a few of the old vibes back, but they’re memoires of an earlier time in my life, or something meaningful sounding like that.

I guess 4.a. is really the goal of all of my listening, and I will listen to absolutely anything, just in case I hit one that’ll get there. There’s no harm in hearing something at step 1, and sometimes I learn from trying to figure out what I don’t like about something in that step. If something gets to the middle of step 2, that can be pretty cool, and I’ll learn something either way.

Honestly, this is all true, but this was mostly a justification for posting that video. How great is it? Come see my band at Good Hurt in LA tonight at 8, and come see my friend’s band do music based on live table tennis tomorrow and Sunday at REDCAT.